Australia has committed to the next stage of upgrades to its Lockheed Martin AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, with the award of a A$68 million ($58.8 million) Air 5276 Capability Assurance Programme 1 (CAP 1) deal.

The move comes as Canberra continues to negotiate with the USA on participation in its Boeing P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft programme.

The CAP 1 effort will involve 18 Orions being equipped with electro-optical/infrared sensors, tactical common datalinks and replacement video recorder systems, with the work to be completed by 2011. CAP 1 has been developed through the P-3 Accord, which is an alliance between Australia's Defence Materiel Organisation, BAE Systems Australia Defence and Australian Aerospace. This was signed in late 2005 to provide capability upgrades and through-life support for the Orion fleet.

Australia plans to retire its P-3Cs by the end of 2018. The Department of Defence says it is continuing negotiations with the US Navy about a collaborative partnership to develop the P-8 as a replacement for the type. Australia has been in negotiations to participate in the 737 derivative programme since last year.

Meanwhile, the DoD confirms that senior Royal Australian Air Force personnel have conducted "fact finding" on the Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic-attack aircraft, including requesting information from the US Navy, but says no formal approach has been made by the government to seek export approval from Washington to purchase the type.

Any future requirement for the type is being considered as part of Australia's defence White Paper process, which is due for completion by year-end.

"The Growlers will be considered as part of the [RAAF's] 24 [F/A-18F] Super Hornet aircraft purchase," the DoD says.

Source: Flight International